Bicycling and in-line skating have become increasingly popular over the past two decades. Although highly enjoyable forms of exercise, these activities are accompanied by an injury risk that can be reduced by the use of lightweight safety equipment. Bicycling - what's the risk? Several hundred children die from bicycle-related injuries in the United States each year, accounting for 10% to 15% of all accidental pediatric deaths. The vast majority (90%-95%) of these fatalities are due to head and neck trauma. Ironically, 80%-90% of these deaths could be prevented with the simple use of a lightweight bicycle helmet.
Over the past 20 years, the number of bicycles produced annually has soared -- currently, twice as many bicycles are manufactured as automobiles. Fatal bicycle accidents are most often (80%) associated with head trauma. Head injuries are usually caused by collision between bicycle and automobile. Not surprisingly, accidents between rider and motor vehicle are more likely to result in death than accidents caused by independent falls or collisions with other bicyclists, pedestrians, or road obstacles.
In order to be effective, a bicycle helmet must satisfy three criteria:
Stay in place
Absorb and contain the force of collision.
A fourth, often overlooked factor, is that it must be worn. A helmet is effective only if used.All bicycle helmets should comply with Snell, ASTM (American Safety for Testing and Materials), ANSI (American National Standards Institute) or CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) standards of safety. These helmets are all constructed of a lightweight, thin shell over a polystyrene lining. Because of its plastic nature, this inner lining absorbs the shock of impact. How effective are helmets? Studies have repeatedly shown that helmets are effective in both preventing and minimizing head injury.A national U.S. telephone survey in 1991 indicated that only 26% of all children under age 15 owned helmets. Only 15% of all children reported using their helmets all or more than half of the time when riding. Multiple studies have shown that bicycle helmets save lives, reduce head injury, and may prevent head injury altogether. National organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics ( http://www.aap.org), and the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute ( http://www.bhsi.org ) provide helmet discounts to bike riders. However, the ultimate responsibility for helmet use lies with parents. Adopting a policy of "no helmet, no bike" can go a long way in increasing the number of children who wear helmets. Parents should wear helmets while biking to set an example for their child's bicycle riding habits. The benefit of helmets in bicycle/motor vehicle collisions also apply to in-line skating. Helmets may be even more important for in-line skaters, because the braking system of a bicycle is much more reliable than any braking system for in-line skates, especially for the novice.Bicycling and in-line skating are both excellent choices of exercise and entertainment, provided that proper precautions are taken to ensure that the participant will be able to enjoy the sport for many years to come.
Resources: Have a question about bike helmets? SafetyBeltSafe has established the Helpline, a toll-free line to answer your questions. 1-800-745-SAFE